Thanks for this thread; its interesting to see what everyones questions are. Let me see if I can address most of them succinctly here:
To quote from the official rules, Judging criteria are inventiveness, creativity andwhere appropriatehumor. I like the idea of having different categories for entries, but frankly, its all we can do to judge the entries we get now! We have no volunteers or interns, and so far have not thought it would be fair to invite the UPS man to join us. Often a few of the Writers Market or Writers Digest Books editors will participate in the judgingwe entice them with pizza. But still, 1,100 entries is a lot for a handful of people to read, and categories would definitely complicate the process. Also, the coveted prize in this contest is, as you know, publication in the magazineand we really have space for only one story there.
Of course judging is subjective, but thats a big part of the reason we open the final decision up to voting here on the forum.
James is right that we do tend to be forgiving of spelling and grammar in favor of story and style, though of course the quality of the writing does factor in to the judging decisions. But I have to say the emphasis is usually on, as stated in the rules, inventiveness and creativity. And heres why:
When we begin reading the entries, it immediately becomes obvious what the common themes in the responses will be. Youd be surprised how many variations of the same story themes we get. This doesnt mean that none of these variations will make it to the finalsbut it does affect our assessment of their originality, and it means that theres a lot of competition for those who take one of most popular approaches to the prompt.
Here are some fun facts about the #17 prompt, to give you an idea:
The most common things the man in the taxi was going to tell his parents were:
1. He was gay.
2. He killed somebody (whether by accident or on purpose).
3. He was in a car accident.
4. He was dead (a ghost passenger in the taxi; sometimes his parents were dead, too).
5. He was going to join the circus.
Other fun statistics about the men in the taxi: 3 of them were leprechauns, 1 was a vampire, 1 was a werewolf and a handful were actually women.
The cab drivers almost always referred to the man in the back as buddy.
The cab drivers almost always asked something along the lines of, Hey, buddy, are you going to get out, or what?
The amount of money on the meter ranged from $12 to $400.
Its always so much fun to see what the most popular approaches will bealong with what some of the off-beat ones will be. Theres no science to the judging processand to some extent, judging is always subjective, but again, thats why we open up the final decision to a vote.
If your entry isnt chosen, please dont take it to heart, and please do submit again next time!